Albania to sell oil firm ARMO as part of privatization drive

TIRANA – Albania said yesterday it will invite a tender next week to start the sale of state-owned oil company ARMO, a refiner which also sells motor oil and products through a small network of gas stations. The sale is part of an ambitious privatization program that includes the selloff of state-owned insurer INSIG, the state-held stakes of Albanian Mobile Communications (AMC) operator and the cash-strapped KESH power monopoly. «This will be the year of big privatizations. We approve the invitation of an open international tender on February 15 to privatize ARMO,» Prime Minister Sali Berisha said in a statement. «One of the main criteria will require the contractor to make an investment that will help develop this key sector.» Albania wants to sell 76 percent of ARMO’s shares to strategic investors, Fred Rrushaj, a legal adviser to Economy and Energy Minister Genc Ruli, told Reuters. An unspecified number of shares will go to ARMO’s workers and the owners of the land where its facilities were built in the 1950s during mass nationalizations by Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha. Rrushaj said that potential buyers will be invited to look at ARMO’s assets and licenses. The company’s main asset is the oil refinery in Ballsh, southern Albania. Most state-owned Albanian companies have been on sale for many years but have drawn scant investor attention. Analysts say the sale of ARMO could be interesting to investors due to a strong rise in the consumption of motor and fuel oil and lubricants on the back of booming car sales in the country. Albanians were not allowed private cars under communism, but have been making up for it enthusiastically since the regime collapsed in 1990.